GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
The Oregon Senate Democrats will elect officers Nov. 16 at Salishan Resort in Gleneden Beach. Despite gain an 18-12 super-majority over Republicans Nov. 6, senators may not be doing much celebrating at the coast. Instead, the action will focus on the desire of more liberal members to change caucus rules and challenge the leadership of Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), who has led the chamber since 2002. Dissidents want Courtney to allow bills to come to the floor more freely, without 16 “yes” votes and without necessarily having GOP support. Sources tell WW Courtney and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) will be asked to change those rules or face leadership challenges.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon’s top lawmakers said the state’s labor commissioner had “personal or political” motives when he launched an investigation into sexual harassment in the Capitol earlier this year. In a court filing earlier this month, the state’s Legislative Assembly also accused Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian of flouting professional conduct rules by serving lawmakers and officials with subpoenas at the state Capitol, and that Avakian’s actions have been “reckless,” along with “highly unusual and improper.” “I think it’s a commissioner that’s just frankly out of control,” Edwin Harnden, the Portland attorney representing the Legislature, told OPB.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Seven weeks after backing her state Board of Education’s decision to loosen high school instruction-time requirements, Gov. Kate Brown is second-guessing the decision and calling for additional review of the policy. “I have concerns with the recommendation provided to the State Board by the Department that appeared to not have adequate supporting data to inform the decision,” Brown said in her Nov. 9 letter to Colt Gill, her deputy superintendent of public instruction and director of the Oregon Department of Education.
While registered voter turnout in Oregon in midterm elections typically ranges between 69 percent and 71 percent, as it did this year, the number of eligible voters who participate typically flat lines at 52 percent. This year, roughly 63 percent of eligible voters participated. “So for an apples-to-apples comparison, it makes more sense to look at the percentage of eligible voters who turned out in past elections, and we’ll compare that to 2018,” Horvick said. “Turnout was exceptionally high here in Oregon.” Oregon Republicans have turned out to vote at a higher rate than Democrats since at least 1964. This year, both political parties turned out at an 80 percent rate. “That actually is consistent with the national story,” Horvick said. “Democrats turned out, and so did Republicans.” With voter rates being equal in both parties, Republicans face a significant challenge due to the overall number of registered Democratic voters. A massive population of Democrats lives in and around Portland and, since they live bunched together, can be easier to energize. “They are so much better organized. It is night and day compared to what Republicans have, in terms of, the unions are organized, progressive groups are organized and they worked hand in hand to get the vote out in 2018,” Horvick said. “It’s just the turnout, you know, machine is much stronger on the Democratic side.”
2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is openly mulling a run for president. But a bid for the White House carries risks: By state law, he would have to give up his Senate seat to run. “A person may not be a candidate for more than one lucrative office to be filled at the same election,” says Oregon Revised Statutes 249.013. Salem sources tell WW Merkley has quietly asked state legislators for a change in Oregon law so he can run for both president and the U.S. Senate in 2020. Merkley served as speaker of the Oregon House in 2007 and retains a reservoir of goodwill in that chamber. He may face more resistance to changing the law in the Senate, where Democrats are more conservative. “Sen. Merkley has been approached by Oregonians who have expressed interest in changing the law,” says Merkley spokesman Ray Zaccaro. “He agrees this is something that should be addressed.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Even as their staffs and political advisers have already begun scouting out office space, interviewing potential aides, and plotting out a strategy for the 2020 presidential election, most haven’t completely made up their minds on entering what’s expected to be one of the most crowded primary contests in history. “I don’t know and I still don’t know,” former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Election Day. “It will be a family decision, and we have time.” Not too much time, though. Some candidates view Thanksgiving as the start of the window for making the political and personal calculation to go forward with or take a pass on a run for the White House. Given the likely size of the field, as well as the extended timeline of presidential campaigns, most of the top-tier potential candidates acknowledge they’ll have to make a final decision by the end of December, if not beforehand.
The high price of insulin is an issue in every state, but it’s a particular problem in Oregon. Nearly 1 in 10 Oregonians suffer from diabetes, a rate well above the national average. Without daily doses of insulin, many would die. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, total spending on diabetes is $100 billion a year nationally. Most of that goes to insulin. That’s not because insulin is a high-tech wonder drug. Experts say the insulin formulations made by Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly—the three companies that dominate the global insulin trade—have changed relatively little since the turn of the 21st century. “It’s basically the same drug with some modifications,” says Dr. Andrew Ahmann, a diabetes specialist at OHSU. The increase in the cost, he says, “makes no sense.”
On Nov. 14, the Portland City Council will vote on a proposal by Mayor Ted Wheeler to let police tell some protesters when and where they may demonstrate. The outcome is still in doubt. The City Council is divided, with undecided Commissioner Nick Fish the swing vote. The fate of Wheeler’s plan probably hinges on whether the council thinks it’s constitutional. In response, Wheeler points to a test case two decades ago and 175 miles to the north. He has repeatedly cited Seattle’s use of an emergency ordinance to shut down several downtown blocks during the 1999 World Trade Organization riots. “We believe 100 percent it will be challenged in court,” Wheeler says, “and we are confident it will be upheld.” Wheeler may get what he wants. But the results in Seattle show that stricter rules are no guarantee people will follow them. And then police will once again have to decide how to respond.
Advocates with three civil-rights groups—the Western States Center, CAIR-Oregon and the Oregon Justice Resource Center—sent their own plan for stopping violent street clashes to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office last month. They presented their alternative plan, WW has learned, with the hope that Wheeler would abandon his attempt to expand police powers to control violent protests. The groups say they met with the mayor and his staff on Oct. 18, just after Wheeler proposed his ordinance to restrict when and where violent protesters can gather. They asked him to consider a broader approach to counter the white nationalism and far-right extremism that has sparked violent clashes on Portland’s streets. They offered to fund the efforts with private dollars. He did not accept that suggestion, they say. And tonight, those three groups are going public with their rejected recommendations, on the eve of a pivotal City Council vote on the mayor’s plan.
Kate Brown was re-elected as Oregon governor with 49.99 percent of the vote in the latest statewide results. She should never forget that number. Neither should her Democratic colleagues in the Oregon Legislature. Even if her tally edges past 50 percent in the final results, voters did not seem very enthusiastic for her policies or her performance. Oregon needs a new Kate Brown, one who will govern from the center instead of one who is seen as placating the public-employee unions and their allies who not only helped keep her in office, but also added to their Democratic majorities in the Legislature.
The Oregonian Editorial Board
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was spot on when he recently described how increasingly violent protests in downtown are hurting the city’s reputation, damaging the city’s economy and leaving local residents feeling unsafe. Yes, yes and yes. And so it’s understandable these disturbing conclusions led Wheeler to craft an ordinance that would provide him with greater power to regulate protests. Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, echoed his concerns in a hearing last week, saying she’s powerless to prevent violent protests and is left only with the tools to react after the fact. “The community is fed up,” she told City Council. Indeed, the proposal Wheeler hopes to put to a vote on Wednesday is exactly what some residents and business owners have called on him to introduce for months. But this ordinance is not the answer.
On one hand, what Starnes did was damaging to the public perception of our party and to those who had cast ballots for him. On the other hand, what he did was also kind of great. A cabinetmaker with no prior experience or background on the issue of campaign finance reform was able to get a sitting governor to prioritize the issue after more than a decade of inaction.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
It’s likely that in the 2019 legislative session Oregon lawmakers will debate what to do about driverless cars. Should Oregon allow their sale to the public? Should Oregon allow testing?
Some industry groups have been putting pressure on Oregon to accelerate what’s allowed, otherwise the state will be left behind. Some states have already given a green light to deploying fully autonomous vehicles on the road. Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, is drafting a bill for the 2019 session that would allow limited testing. She’s right to take that approach. At this stage, it’s too early for sales. More testing is needed.
Can political conservatism survive the growth of government-led intervention designed to shore up fundamental institutions? When it comes to government intervention, what’s the limiting principle? If we believe government can rebuild the labor market according to Cass’s prescriptions, or rebuild families according to Douthat’s and Salam’s, where is the line drawn? Tucker Carlson recently suggested on my show that he’d ban automatic driving because of the danger of job loss among blue-collar workers, for example. Would that be a bridge too far? If so, why? Constitutional philosophy suggests that Douthat, Salam, and Cass are completely right when it comes to the world they seek to build: safe, stable, culturally solid, community-oriented. But constitutional philosophy also suggests that the institutions that hold up such a world cannot be created by government. Churches do not thrive because government subsidizes them; families do not thrive because government subsidizes them. Nobody goes to church for the tax write-off, and nobody gets married and has children for the earned-income tax credit. Tax write-offs and tax credits are at best slight incentives not to abandon plans already made. They are not incentives to build societally important institutions. This means that conservatism’s fundamental challenge these days is extra-governmental: convincing Americans to re-engage with family and civic associations outside of government, which cannot effectuate such re-engagement itself.